Why do people compare Abercrombie and Fitch to Hitler Youth?

Why do people compare Abercrombie and Fitch to Hitler Youth?

“Pounding, bad, cheesy house music; so dark that people were walking into each other; and staff who are obviously employed by a body fascist with an Aryan fixation”.
comment left by an anonymous reviewer on the internet.

The Germany that fell under the rule of the Nationalist Socialist Party of the 1930s and 1940s is often cast as a pariah state by contemporary historical standards, but there are more similarities between contemporary liberal democracies and a totalitarian Nazi state than we might care to admit. Both societies create temples for the worship of reproductive fitness, the perfect body, good genes, youth and beauty. In the totalitarian Nazi state it is the state itself, which promulgates an aspiration towards reproductive fitness. Under the Nationalist Socialists of Germany, certain notions of attractiveness and reproductive fitness were used alongside discrimination against those who didn’t hit the mark, to ‘improve’ the genetic stock of the population, creating a society where people of one type started to want to be people of another. In the liberal capitalist state, the state leaves this work, by and large, to the marketing departments of major corporations. Marketing men influence behaviour with the tantalising notion that attractiveness and the attractiveness of the mates available for selection can be increased through purchasing (and sporting) a certain brand of clothing. Marketing men, by promoting reproductive fitness, denigrate, implicitly or otherwise, anyone who doesn’t hit the mark.

It is therefore interesting and bizarre that in liberal capitalistic democracies a kind of doublethink operates, where the state espouses equality with regards to the law, diversity and anti-discrimination, whilst allowing clothing firms and other commercial concerns to make it clear that you only mean something if you are reproductively fit. But perhaps this is as it should be, as we shall now explain with a pop-Freudian analysis. The search for a mate, or a sexual partner, to the exclusion of others, is a drive in most if not all humans. In Freudian terms we might call this drive the id. Of course in purely Darwinian terms all it requires to be reproductively fit is to propagate, and ugly people are as capable of that as good-looking ones. And yet it seems there are certain human features and characteristics, which predispose humans to being more able or more likely to achieve this feat, features which we instinctively recognise as attractive in each other. The harsh bit, the bit that feels uncomfortable, is that by selecting those who are as attractive as we are likely to get, we exclude others, who are not so attractive, from our lives, company and favours. And we all do it.

The superego is that part of the person’s mind, which criticises its own impulses, and tries to constrain them, in a manner which ensures a degree of social harmony. OK, pick a mate, and exclude the rest, but don’t be nasty about it, and act if possible, as if it’s not happening. Besides, your own survival depends on being nice. You may not want to mate or be associated with a person who is not reproductively fit, but don’t rub it in, else that reproductively unfit person might spite your loins to save his face. In liberal democracies, in complex specialised capitalistic societies, the marketing men take on the id and the political apparatus takes on the superego. Marketing men by definition have to have a strong id. For a clothes company trying to convince passers-by they can improve their reproductive fitness and attain a sexual partner by purchasing their clothes, having their clothes worn and sold by ugly people, people who lack the qualities assumed to confer reproductive advantages, flies in the face of capitalistic endeavour. It would be the road to ruin. Nevertheless we also find within the mind of a fashion house or clothing store space for the operation of superego in the tempering of its id, i.e. in the tempering of its desire to use reproductive fitness to sell. Whilst clothes company often use attractive types to sell their gear, they tend to do it in an underhand or understated way, as if the models were just everyday people. That is they do it with a degree of decorum, diplomacy, deceit and delusion.

The thing is A&F haven’t got any time for that, they have a very thin superego. They are not interested in playing by the rules. They want to make money at any cost. They are the school bully. Mike Jefferies, chief executive of A&F was quoted by Fashion United (26th February, 2007) as saying, “We get asked by big malls to turn our music down the whole time. We do and then we turn it back up an hour later.” Similarly A&F use sex, beauty and youth in a rather unabashed way. Apparently when Abercrombie & Fitch started building work on their Savile Row building, they erected a barricade on which was posted, ‘a two-story parade of buff young men, chests bare and jeans riding low on their hips’ (Hazlett, 2006). A&F then are the George W Bush of the clothing industry, what The Daily Mail calls ‘vulgar commercialisation’. In 2009, a disabled woman sued Abercrombie & Fitch for discrimination, claiming it made her work in a stockroom because her prosthetic arm didn’t fit its public image. The girl described being left feeling ‘utterly worthless’ The tribunal ruled that Dean was “unlawfully harrassed for a reason that related to her disability”. Tom Michelson, who worked in the store for a while, noted that a less attractive group of staff, known as the “impact team” often worked behind the scenes. He added ‘The unattractive, the overweight and the disabled just don’t seem to make it on to the shop floor.’ It’s the aggression or honesty of A&F, the way it refuses to be constrained by regulation and social conditioning, the way it lets its id burst through its terribly weak superego, that causes some to draw comparisons between A&F’s approach and the zeal of Hitler Youth and the German nationalist socialist regime of 1940s.

The untrammelled id will eventually lead to burnout and ruin; to exclusion, expulsion and destruction.




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